SCOTTISH INNS, BARS AND TAVERNS
Here we feature The Laurieston bar, 58 Bridge Street, Glasgow. It has a perfectly preserved interior dating to the 1960s, and is an absolute gem.
The interior of The Laurieston Bar in Glasgow
Feb 2014 News cartoon. Food-banks in Scotland
THE ECONOMY IMPROVES - WHO'S KIDDING WHO?
The UK economy, it seems, is improving. There is light at the end of the big recessionary tunnel. Soon we will all be happy. Heck, we might even be able to afford to illuminate our homes.
But are things really getting better? The use of food-banks is increasing at an alarming rate. In October 2013 The Scotsman reported that five times as many Scots were now using food-banks than during the previous year. Indeed, 23,073 folk had - and I do mean 'had' (this is not an increase borne through a word-of-mouth rumour that free grub was available so we can spend more on booze and fags!) to make use of emergency food aid between April and September. That equates to something like 50,000 people each year. In Scotland. Begging for food. Beggars belief, doesn't it?
So perhaps we should bear this in mind when the vote for Scottish independence comes around this year. I don't see food-banks as an improvement. And I'll be voting a big fat YES.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
February 2014
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TOWN WALLS
Long ago many towns in Scotland had a surrounding wall. It was there to keep out bad guys. Armies, even. The wall had gates to allow folk to come and go, each manned by the town guard, forerunners of today's police force, usually dressed in a shiny breastplate and helm, and armed with a big halberd blade thing.
Well, I have it on good authority that town walls are to make a comeback. This will make it easier for today's police forces to implement their Stop-and-Search policy, a policy that has seen 750,000 folk stopped and searched in Scotland in 2013.
Each gate will be manned by the police, and everyone who enters, or leaves, will be searched.
Any questions?
Snippets
IN A SUPERMARKET checkout queue recently I found myself scrutinising someone else's shopping, as you do. It was with some disbelief that I noticed a packet of Pamper-like nappies. For dogs. I didn't know such a thing existed. I suppose it's probably a fairly good idea, especially where young untrained dogs are concerned. But I found myself wondering if such items existed for other animals. Might you get Pampers for your cat? Bunny rabbit? Budgie? Tortoise? Police horse? Time someone spilled the beans.
I BOUGHT A Line 6 'POD' recently. It's a special effects box for electric guitars. It's made in China. Just the other day I bought some socks from Debenhams. They too are made in China. I can't help but feel the balance of trade between the UK and China is all wrong. We must be importing a heck of a lot more from places like China than we are exporting. Is it not possible to implement measures to restrict imports to a level that matches the level of exports to a country? Is it not about time we started making oor ain stuff?
FINALLY, I'VE BOUGHT a new camera. It's a low-end-of-the-range Canon that replaces my old one that never ever zoomed after falling in a pint of beer. But what started out as a fairly inexpensive purchase soon escalated. The camera, for example, did not come with a cable for connecting it to your computer, a necessary action if one is to save one's photies. Neither did it come with a case, and it's such a slim job that at times it mimics a bar of soap in its efforts to escape. Add on a necessary spare battery and Hey Presto: arm and a leg!

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 ENGLAND'S BIBLICAL FLOOD
This may come as a surprise to you, but I've gone a-hiking in areas that aren't Scotland. I've gone a-hiking in, for example, England, and I retain many happy memories of hills and cathedrals and rustic pubs and pork crackling. Amongst the many walks I have tackled in that fine land is The Cotswold Way, a trek full of so many hills that by the time I finished my thigh muscles were the size of Bath.
During another trek, this time on my way to Cheddar to see the caves and drink real zoiderr, I found myself in the Mendip Hills. I vividly recall standing on a hill, adjusting my underwear and admiring the view, and marveling at how Glastonbury and its Tor were so prominent in the landscape. I wrote about it at the time. I quote...
When up on the hills I had views of the strange land to the south and west. Between where I was and the Bristol Channel was a peculiar mixture of low flat wetland – vast tracts of long fields only three or four metres above sea level – and isolated pockets of high ground, like Nyland Hill and Brent Knoll and the more substantial rise on which sits Wedmore and Cocklake. When water levels were higher than they are now, these must have been the main areas of human occupation immediately south of the Mendips, given that they would have been high and dry and in effect islands. Towns like Glastonbury and its impressive Tor, sitting smugly above the surrounding land, must have stood out for miles above this inland extension of the Bristol Channel. Or so I reckon.
It was nice just standing looking out towards the far-off sea. It had been a misty morning, but now it was starting to clear, and gradually the white layers were melting to reveal a scene of utter beauty. The appearance of a large sun directly behind me cast a long shadow that seemed to stretch as far as Bridgwater Bay. Blue patches of mist drifted here and there in wooded hollows down below, trying to escape their inevitable fate.
Over to my left, Glastonbury Tor sat upon a moving sea of silk, and as it caught the full redness of the sun I thought for a moment, I really thought, that I could make out King Arthur in the sky above.
I was now in Fantasy Mode, and had been transformed into a knight in shining armour, banners flying, white horse at the ready. Our mission was to make battle with an evil force that had erupted from the ground at Cheddar. Time was of the essence. We were to meet with elves, take counsel from a wizard, and join forces with the Knights of the Holy Grail to banish the blackness. With any luck, we might even find a damsel in distress along the way.
Standing on this grassy hillside, far from civilisation, my mind even further, I looked towards the distant horizon and, in a moment that I can’t quite explain, raised my fist skyward and shouted, ‘All hail Excalibur!’
And just then an elderly man with protruding veins, shorts and running shoes, carrying a newspaper and a look that said, ‘Bloody tourists,’ jogged slowly by.
‘Morning,’ he said.
‘Morning,’ I replied, adjusted my underwear, and headed off to save the world.
Anyway, I think you get my drift here: very low flat tracts of land; flooding, etc. It is some of these areas around Glastonbury that are indeed now back under water. You have to ask yourself if perhaps a rather big mistake was made hundreds of years ago when they thought they could turn low marshy land liable to flood into meaningful agricultural land.
The English seem to have a peculiar relationship with water and flooding. During another of my treks, this time in the area of Ironbridge, I was somewhat amazed to see so many properties by the River Severn had lines and dates on their doors to denote the level of flood-water in the past. It was almost as if they took a curious amount of pleasure in boasting that such-and-such a year was a bad 'un and the waters came halfway up their door.
And I recall at the time thinking, 'Why don't they just get the hell out of there?' I'm still thinking that.
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